Total comfort food, part one

7 Apr

I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about vegans is that we sit around all day eating salad, tofu and carrot sticks. Not true at all. And if it were, I probably wouldn't have lasted very long as a vegan! 

Yummy, filling, satisfying food has to be a priority or you will just binge on what it is you're really craving. Don't get me wrong — I enjoy salads and carrot sticks and the occasional tofu — but comfort food is what it's all about!
My family has been enjoying Alicia Silverstone's Mac & Cheese recipe, but I wanted to see if I could come up with my own technique for making a vegan version of a kid's favorite meal. I succeeded! My recipe is creamy, "cheesy" and passed the kid test with flying colors. This is not your typical boxed macaroni and cheese with its fake cheesy taste. This is more like a mild white cheddar sauce. I love whole wheat pasta in many dishes because the nuttiness of it adds another dimension to the recipe. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well in this recipe. Forego the healthier alternative here and use the regular white pasta.
If you're in a hurry, you can just cook the noodles and the sauce, toss it all together and serve. The sauce will thicken even more as it cools. If you have the time, spread it in a baking dish, sprinkle the top with Panko bread crumbs and bake until the top is a little crunchy. From start to finish in the oven, this can be on the table in about 30 minutes or so. 
And stayed tuned — last night I read about a way to make vegan cheese sauce using raw cashews. I'm intrigued and will let you know if it's a success or not.
serves 6
1# dry pasta shells, rotini or penne
1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery spread
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used White Whole Wheat)
2 cups plain almond milk + 2 cups water
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
freshly-ground black pepper
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray, if using the bread crumb topping. 
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta, per package directions, until just tender. Drain and return to the pan.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onions until tender. Stir in the flour and cook until incorporated into the butter. Slowly whisk in the almond milk and water. Continue to whisk until well-blended. Turn heat to medium-high and continue to stir occasionally as it begins to bubble. When it just begins to thicken, stir in the nutritional yeast, thyme, garlic powder and salt and continue cooking and stirring. When it's about the consistency of alfredo sauce, add a little black pepper then taste and add more salt or pepper, if needed.
Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until all pasta is coated. You can serve at this point. Or, pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and top with the bread crumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bread crumbs are lightly browned and the pasta is bubbly. Enjoy!
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4 Responses to “Total comfort food, part one”

  1. Mother Leopard April 7, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    Hello! I finally have a moment to stop by and say hi, I am stalking your blog lol jk My husband and I have decided to try some things to eat better as we exercise and try to be more healthy over all, and somehow I came across your blog and I really enjoy reading all your entries with your progress and the vegan diet. I've never really considered veganism (mainly because every vegan I know is very up tight and even rude sometimes about my eating meat) but I'm happy to say that you're doing a really good job of just being yourself and not passing needless judgement, which I really like. I've also lifted the eatingwell website from you and made dinner from recipes tonight which was awesome 🙂 Wow I've written a paragraph hahaThank you for all your support, even if you're unaware of it 🙂 – Malorie

  2. Tamie Spears April 8, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    Thank you! I'm so glad to know my blog is helping someone! The vegan diet just sort of happened as I'm working my way through this high BP situation. But I'm really loving it. I honestly do not miss meat at all. I only miss eggs for the convenience of baking with them. I'm not expecting, nor asking, my family to switch to a vegan diet. But I've learned a lot about the way animals raised for human consumption are treated and it freaks me out. So, I'm seeking better alternatives to grocery store meat so that my family is not supporting factory farming. It seems to be working for me. Please let me know if you make an Eating Well recipe that really hits the spot! 🙂

  3. ErinGoBragh April 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    Mmm, this is another one I am going to try out!

    Is nutritional yeast different from the yeast I bake with?

  4. Tamie Spears April 13, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Yes – it's sold at health food stores. Make sure you get Nutritional Yeast, not for baking. It comes in flakes (sort of looks like fish food!) and gives food a cheesy taste.

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